Unpacking the Gift of Presence

“If you love someone, the greatest gift you can give them is your presence.” — Thich Nhat Hanh

It doesn’t matter where we are or who we’re with. It could be at the dinner table or the board table. It could be dining at a restaurant or standing in line at the grocery store. We could be conversing with our children or with total strangers.

What would it look like if we all did a better job of giving the gift of our presence? Beyond showing up, how much more could we accomplish if we all paid more attention? Here are three easy steps that I will commit to — will you join me?

1. Turn off your device

We know that we need to cut back on our screen time — right? Here’s a simple way to put that intent into practice. The next time you’re in someone’s presence, take a digital detox. Whether you’re at a board meeting, attending a presentation or tuning in for a conference call, resist the urge to text, answer your email or check your social activity. Instead, tune in and turn on to events in real time.

2. Give your full attention

Think about how you are showing up and the body language you are conveying. Are you making full eye contact? Are you truly listening to what someone is saying or already formulating your next response? Are you tending to who is right in front of you or scanning the room for the next encounter? What would it feel like if you gave 100% of your attention to the real live person in your presence?

3. Practice the art of listening

Reconnecting with the teachings of the humanistic philosopher, Eric Fromm, and his “6 Rules of Listening” is a great reminder of the value of practicing the art of listening. Our days are filled with a cacophony of sounds and messages and relentless distraction. True listening builds our capacity for empathy and understanding and love.

What a gift to ourselves and the world if we can commit to being more fully present!